May 25, 2014

My Asimov Fantasy

Isaac Asimov and Gene Roddenberry
I've been pushing myself hard. I'm trying to break out of the prison of my conservative habits and allow myself to write a fantasy story. It ain't easy.

I recently looked back at "Two Genres Separated By A Common Setting" by Jeff Offringa. Offringa quotes Asimov's views on science fiction and fantasy. I must confess: I like Asimov's description of the difference between science fiction and fantasy. A string of imaginary scientific and technological advances can link from the world as we know it to a Fictional Universe in the SciFi genre.

"The best fantasy, I believe, is based on our own myths and legends – and our own history." -Jeff Offringa

Asimov's fantasy stories
Some people are color blind; I'm "fantasy blind". However, I like the idea that our cultural heritage of myths and legends provides a foundation for fantasy stories.

SciFi fans come to the science fiction genre with a shared world view, a scientific world view. Their common interest in science and the transformative power of technologies creates a center of attraction that gives the SciFi genre a dynamic cohesion.

My intuition tells me that fans of fantasy must also have a shared set of "rules" that define good fantasy. Maybe "rules" is not the right word. Science fiction has rules: the physical laws that govern the behavior of material objects.

One "rule" that seems to govern fantasy arises from what Dan Dennett has called the "intentional stance". As social mammals, when we try to understand the world, we naturally employ human brain circuits that allow us to "map" our own pattern of thought onto the behavior of other people. We naturally see a willful decision maker as existing inside another person and, just as easily, inside an inanimate object. We are hard-wired and culturally entrained to imagine spirits and souls in everything. Our myths and legends are full of magical beings and spirits that defy the laws of physics but that conform to our human intuition about non-material consciousness. Asimov's fantasy character Azazel was named after an ancient element of a biblical myth.

The Foundations of Eternity
So, when I re-read Offringa's suggestion about the importance of myth and legend for the fantasy genre, and since his commentary was in the context of Asimov, I started thinking about the role Asimov plays in the Exode Trilogy.

Asimov became involved in the Exode Trilogy because I set out to make a fan fiction sequel to Asimov's novel Foundation and Earth. For his time travel novel The End of Eternity, Asimov had selected the 1930s as the point in time when Noÿs Lambent arrives in the Primitive. I could not resist including Noÿs in my story, so it was not much of a leap from there to also putting Asimov himself into the mix!

The Foundations of Eternity depicts Asimov in the Foundation Reality. In that Reality, Asimov tries to make a career out of spying on the military and then writing articles about secret government technologies. In the Foundation Reality, Asimov stays in the army  long enough to be stationed in Roswell when an alien spaceship crashes and parts of a positronic robot are recovered by Earthlings.

The robot tries to take over Asimov's brain, but Asimov is taken to the Moon by Grean. Grean then recruits Asimov to help find another positronic robot that is on Earth and meddling in human affairs. Asimov agrees to participate in this mission, which turns out to involve time travel and which provides Asimov with a chance to meet his younger self. Of course, the "older Asimov" can't resist the temptation to provide a helping hand to himself.

In Exode, Asimov remains as a character, but now the scene has shifted and events are now taking place in the Buld Reality, the world as we know it. This gets a little trickier because now Asimov's actions must conform the actual history as we know it.

Janet and Isaac
For Exode, I imagine that Asimov is pestered (stalked?) by Thomas, a writer. Thomas tries to get Asimov to read the fantasy novel Daveed the Luk'ie, a story published by Thomas under the pen name Saul Greek. Asimov knows Thomas as a formerly institutionalized  "delusional patient" who was under the care of his wife (Janet) and other doctors for more than a decade.

The Ekcolir Reality
Thomas is having a difficult second life. He was born in the Ekcolir Reality, the Reality that came just before the Buld Reality. Through the wonders of time travel, Thomas was brought over into the world as we know it, his memories, such as they are, "intact". The problem is, within the Ekcolir Reality, Thomas had his mind invaded by nanites (including those that had been in the "older Asimov") and he grew dependent on his nanorobotic endosymbiont. Then, in our Reality, Thomas made the strategic decision to remove those nanites, triggering his decade of mental instability.

Photoshop: younger and older Asimov.
After ten years, Thomas took the nanites "back on-board" and he was able then to reintegrate his mind. Mostly.

So, Thomas struggles mightily to be taken seriously by Asimov, but it is all to easy for people to just assume that Thomas is off his rocker. Thomas believes that he has important information that must be communicated to Asimov in order for "our Earth" to not suffer the same fate as Earth in the Ekcolir Reality. However, Thomas has already accomplished his mission in our Reality...he just does not know it. 

My Fantasy
Campbell and Asimov meet
I never met Dr. Asimov. For Exode, I imagine that that "the Editor" did get to meet Asimov at a science fiction "convention". It was this "chance meeting" that was the occasion when Thomas became aware of the Editor and that eventually led to the transfer of nanites from Thomas into the Editor (in the year 2012).

This "chance meeting" might seem like a fairly harmless fantasy: John writes himself into Exode and arranges to meet Isaac Asimov. However, the part of the story that is harder to swallow is that I imagine the "Thomas nanites" migrated into John Campbell, creating the conditions for ten years of mentoring and collaboration between Campbell and Asimov. In this indirect way, information reached the Asimov of the Buld Reality from the Asimov of the Foundation Reality.

Doubting Thomas
Thomas and Parthney on the Moon
Thomas came into to the Buld Reality already knowing much of the history of how aliens had for millions of years been altering the course of events on Earth. However, he knew very little about the theory of matter and multidimensional physics that provides the scientific foundation for the advanced technologies deployed by the aliens. So, Thomas doubted his ability to adequately shape the story that he wanted to share with Asimov and craft it as a science fiction story.

Frustratingly, Asimov never bothered to read Daveed the Luk'ie. However, that fateful miscommunication meant that Asimov was unconcerned (and unaware) when Janet handed Asimov's copy of the book to Parthney.

A family tree including 2 Ek'col and 2 Kac'hin
What must Thomas have thought when he learned that his clone (Parthney) was on Earth?

Trysta had cryptically informed him that he would one day meet himself on the Moon, so Thomas began to fear that she had been mistaken about the future: meeting yourself might involve cloning, not time travel.

Eventually Thomas fulfills Trysta's "prophecy" by going to the Moon and arranging to serve out the duration of Parthney's term of imprisonment there.

New cover concept
When writing Daveed the Luk'ie, what changes did Thomas make in order to transform Exode into a fantasy story? In Exode, there are several modified human subspecies including the Ek'col and the Kac'hin. The planet Luk'ru holds a gateway into the Hierion Domain and the work station where the Kac'hin were developed and crafted for their role as an interface for the Huaoshy to be able to function here in the Hadronic Domain. Thomas creates a play on words, uniting "Daveed" as a substitute for Asimov's Daneel and using his invented term "Luk'ie" (a variant form of Luk'ru) to both replace the name "Kac'hin" and also remind Asimov of "Lucky Starr".

The Mythology of Time Travel
Thomas wrote the character "Daveed" to be the opposite of Asimov's character Azazel. While everything Azazel does for someone ends up backfiring, Daveed seemingly can do no wrong. Of course, Daveed benefits from an ability to conjure visions of the future and travel back through time.

More magazine and book covers.
Image credits. Here are the images that I combined to to make the fanciful Fantastic Adventures cover shown above.
The original magazine cover was in color.
Campbell, left: see
source (Asimov, right)
The old photos of Campbell and Asimov were in black and white.

Prince Namor by Greg Horn
Realizing that my original cover art concept for Daveed the Luk'ie was contaminated with science fiction motifs, I decided to try something new. I wanted to show Daveed (as the prototypical Luk'ie) being brought into existence magically, conjured from a dark medium.

Magic Water by ljilja
An image like Magic Water is close to what I was imagining as a fantasy scene in which there could be a vision of Daveed. In the Exode Trilogy Grean has advanced sedronic technology that allows viewing of alternate Realities. Gazing into water to get a vision of the future seems like an appropriate fantasy setting for Daveed the Luk'ie.

Fantasy Book Cover
The next round in my continuing effort to make a fantasy-style book cover for Daveed the Luk'ie.
Related Reading: 2015 science fantasy

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